It sure came fast. Just a workweek remaining until the continuing resolution expires. The fever is building on Capitol Hill to do something to avoid a government shutdown. For the latest, the Federal Drive with Tom Temin spoke to Bloomberg Government Deputy News Director Loren Duggan.
Tom Temin Loren, before we get to the shutdown prospect, I want to talk about the decision of GSA to move the FBI to Greenbelt, Maryland, for its new headquarters. The Virginia delegation not taken that one lying down, are they?
Loren Duggan They aren’t. They are not happy about this decision. Obviously, this is a major project to, I think, $3.5 billion probably in all the investments long term that come with having a major facility. So Virginia, not happy, not happy about a change in criteria that was made along the way when I believe the ranking of proximity to Quantico moved down a little bit and which made Virginia a little less favorable and it seems in the end gave Greenbelt the leg up. You know, something here is this is a lot of Democrats arguing that Democrats are Republicans here, too. Obviously, in Virginia, there’s Republicans in the delegation, plus the governor. But, you know, you kind of are pitting Gerry Connolly of Virginia and Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who otherwise agree on a lot of things against each other here. So I think that the choice has been made, but maybe the fight goes on and the rhetoric obviously did not calm down after this decision was announced and released.
Tom Temin And they’re calling for an IG investigation then from the Virginia side.
Loren Duggan Yes, I think they’ll seek that. And there’s obviously fights ahead, too, on how to fund this thing. I mean, that was a live issue in one of the spending bill debates last week, because the GSA will need the funds to actually get this project underway. And, you know, the FBI itself is sometimes a political football. So there’s a ways to go here. Even if this decision, which was very key to the process, has been announced.
Tom Temin Will Republicans in the House maybe try to hold this up via lack of funding? I mean, in the Trump administration, they killed the whole project and said they were going to rebuild or tear down the current building in downtown D.C. and rebuild there. And Matt Gaetz was making noise about maybe not funding this.
Loren Duggan Well, Matt Gaetz made some pretty I mean, he made some comments this week about if the building is rat infested, that’s where they should stay and things like that on the House floor during the debate on whether to do funding for this new project. So I think the FBI is caught up in politics as well because of their role in different political matters and investigations over the last couple of years. Trump allies aren’t happy with the FBI. So like I say, I think that this battle could go on in different ways, but the funding stream that would have to come through one of the spending bills covering the General Services Administration, that’s where we might see more happening there. That bill was one of the things that got pulled last week. So there’s not a final answer yet in the House and obviously a long way to go. And this project will take a good amount of time to complete.
Tom Temin Well, the current building, it was 12 years between the first appropriation for design and engineering until anyone actually moved in. You know, three administrations came and went before anyone actually moved into the building. So this is very uncertain and it’s fair to say at this point.
Loren Duggan Definitely lots to look at on this one.
Tom Temin All right. Well, those are fun to follow, but I guess not. If you’re at the FBI and you do have a rat infested building, I don’t care what you think of an agency. Nobody should have rats in the building unless it’s a lab. All right. The shutdown, Friday night, midnight. It would happen unless something happens. What does it look like now? Up there on the hill?
Loren Duggan Going into the weekend, there wasn’t a consensus. We had a lot of talk in a couple of recent days about a laddered continuing resolution. This was an idea that the new speaker, Mike Johnson, had been floating. Were some agencies covered by some of the bills would get one date and others would get a later date. Some of the timing they were talked about shifted. That was not an idea that was resonating with Senate appropriators, including the chair over there. Patty Murray. So I think it’s, you know, a real live question. Will the government be funded by Friday at midnight? There’s five days here to get something done. And as we saw last time around, it was we’re looking really grim on the morning of September 30th. And by the mid-afternoon, we had a path forward, although obviously for Kevin McCarthy came at the cost of a speakership. So a lot of dynamics going in here. We do have next week the federal holiday for Thanksgiving. There is, I think, some real pressure to get something done here and figure out a path forward. But, you know, going into the weekend, there was a lot of uncertainty about what that would look like. And so inevitably, if you’re smart and you run a government agency, you’re probably thinking about what do I do if we have to shut down going into the coming weekend?
Tom Temin We’re speaking with Loren Duggan, deputy news director at Bloomberg Government. And you can imagine all sorts of distortions that would happen with the so called laddered to shutdown. Suppose the Navy and the Defense Department were covered, but DHS was shut down. Then that means the Navy couldn’t talk to the Coast Guard, for example, because the Coast Guard would be moored in place.
Loren Duggan Yes, except for those excepted personnel, As you know, sometimes they used to talk more about essential, but it’s more excepted from a shutdown, People who would stay on duty. Those operations continue to go on, obviously just unpaid and people working unhappily at TSA desks next weekend. That might be a recipe for disaster with the travel season coming up. Yeah. I think that that’s part of the confusion is, you know, having staggered dates doesn’t necessarily work for people and you could create you know, it’s a laddered C.R. today, but it’s a staggered shutdown potentially in the future.
Tom Temin And meanwhile, there are also some authorizations that still haven’t happened. And those need to occur if there’s funding. You also need the authorization such as the NDAA. But a couple of other major pieces.
Loren Duggan The NDAA is a big one. That’s a bill that both the House and Senate have passed. The House has named its negotiators, the Senate hasn’t. Last week we saw House Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers call on the Senate to take that kind of formal formality step to name their negotiators. So we’ll see if that happens in the coming days. But there is a path by the end of the year, I think, to get that bill over the line. There was broad agreement about the top line spending, but not about some of the details in there and some of the riders. So they do have things to work out. Another one is the FAA, which was extended through the end of the year by the last C.R.. That one seems a little bit stalled. The House has passed a bill. The Senate talks are at an impasse. So they may not deal with that in this coming C.R. but that is something that they’ll be looking to do, obviously, by the end of the year, because an authorization needs to be in place for some of those operations separate from spending. And the third big authorization, the farm bill that’s out there. We saw a growing consensus recently for a one year extension of that legislation. They’ve argued that three months here or there doesn’t really help a farmer when you’re going for the whole season. So I think we’ll see a one year extension of that at some point. Whether that happens right away in the C.R., that’s coming up this week with all the other issues there or another piece of legislation. That’s the big one there. And then one final one is there’s an important surveillance power that’s expiring at the end of the year and talks are starting to ramp up there. You’ll hear Section 702 talked about a lot. That’s one that needs to be in place for some intelligence activities and important surveillance matters. So that one will be gearing up in the discussions as well.
Tom Temin That’s intelligence community related Section seven or two.
Loren Duggan That is about surveillance, I think, of non-U.S. persons. But some people want to change the way that provision operates. So it’s not just a slam dunk straight extension on that either. There could be some calls for an overhaul.
Tom Temin And in the meantime, there is the question of aid to Israel and aid to Ukraine. And that’s turned into kind of a mess on the Hill, too, hasn’t it?
Loren Duggan It has. The packaging of that is the key question right now. There is support even among Speaker Mike Johnson for Israel aid and Ukraine aid, but maybe separate. And then what do you pair with those things if they move separately? We saw with Israel it was about clawing back some of the IRS money that was provided in 2022. That didn’t go over well with Democrats. In the Ukraine question, Do you put border provisions with that, not just border funding, but also some restrictions that Republicans want? We saw Senate Republicans call for that last week. So I don’t know that that’s a question that will be answered in time for the C.R. It seems like that could go much longer as they figure out what exactly to do there.